The Bangor High School baseball program boasts a storied history.
In the modern era alone, the Rams will be making their 24th appearance in a state championship game during the last 52 seasons on Saturday when they play Thornton Academy of Saco for the Class A crown at Morton Field in Augusta.
Game time is 2 p.m.
Bangor has captured 14 state championships and 23 regional crowns since 1970, an era that featured a run of four straight titles between 1994 and 1997 under longtime former coach Bob Kelley, who guided the program to eight state titles and 15 Eastern Maine Class A championships during his 32-year tenure.
More recently the Rams won five consecutive state championships, a Class A record, between 2014 and 2018. Former head coach Jeff Fahey’s teams won the first three of those titles among the four state championships and five regional titles the Rams won during his 16 years as head coach.
The last two state titles have come under current head coach Dave Morris’ watch, along with additional regional championships in 2021 and again this spring.
That the Rams came so close last June — falling to South Portland 3-2 in the state final on a walk-off walk in the bottom of the seventh inning — has been perhaps the primary motivational tool this spring for a Bangor roster with 12 seniors among its 16 varsity players.
“It’s been a goal in the back of our minds for so long,” Bangor senior pitcher-outfielder Max Clark said after the Rams’ 1-0 victory over Edward Little of Auburn in Tuesday’s Class A North final. “We haven’t really wanted to push it too far, we’ve wanted to take it day by day. We knew we had to get every win we could at the beginning of the year and now in the playoffs we have to win. I couldn’t be happier, honestly, but we have one more win to go.”
One could argue that in a Golden State Warriors sense, Bangor’s current dynastic stretch dates back to the 2014 state championship.
The Rams have won seven North titles in the last eight years baseball has been played, the lone exception coming in 2019 when Bangor finished 4-12 with eight one-run losses — much like the Warriors went 15-50 when the NBA played an abbreviated 2020 season in the so-called bubble in Florida due to the COVID-19 pandemic en route to the fourth championship in eight years they secured in Boston on Thursday night.
The lack of a 2020 high school baseball season has cast an additional sense of separation between Bangor’s most recent state championships and the regional crowns it has won the last two years, but the Rams are now 27-1 in postseason play since the start of the 2014 season, with 12 of the victories coming by shutout.
Perhaps a win over a talented Thornton Academy team that eliminated defending state champion South Portland 8-1 in Tuesday’s A South final will reconnect the current team with their most recent predecessors.
Certainly they share the same ambition.
“I’m excited to get back from last year,” senior shortstop Keegan Cyr said.
“The standard at Bangor is to win the [regional final] and win the next one, and that’s what we’re looking to do. It’s been too many years off without one, and I think growing up we’ve had a chance to do something really special in baseball and it’s finally coming true again.”
Bangor (18-1) has won 10 straight games since its only loss, a 7-4 eight-inning decision to Class B North finalist Old Town on May 13, but the Rams had to battle to survive the regional tournament.
After a 10-0, five-inning quarterfinal victory over No. 9 Skowhegan, Bangor came from behind in the sixth inning to edge No. 5 Messalonskee of Oakland 6-5 in the semifinals before senior left-hander Colton Trisch made a second-inning run stand up with a complete-game shutout over Edward Little in the title game.
“The job is finished here,” said the George Washington University-bound Trisch after improving his pitching record this spring to 9-0. “We kind of expected to win, especially with being here last year and doing the same thing this year, so now we have our eyes on Saturday and the big game.”
Trisch, the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A player of the week and a finalist for the state’s Mr. Baseball award, also hit .500 with 25 runs scored and 16 RBIs during the regular season from the leadoff spot in a Bangor batting order that produced a .331 team batting average.
“We’ve really ridden his coattails in a lot of ways,” Morris said. “I can’t say enough about him.”
Other leading hitters include Cyr (.429), senior designated hitter Brady Hand (.391), senior third baseman Braydon Caron (.380), senior catcher Ryan Howard (.365), Clark (.311) and senior first baseman Luke Missbrenner (.310), while Clark (3-0), junior right-hander Wyatt Stevens (4-0) and senior reliever Jonah Baude (2-0) have provided considerable pitching depth.
Thornton Academy (19-1) will bring a 16-game winning streak to its first appearance in a baseball state championship game.
Coach Jason Lariviere’s Trojans are led by senior pitcher-outfielder Cody Bowker, already named the Gatorade Maine baseball player of the year as well as the most valuable player in the Southwestern Maine Activities Association’s Class A ranks.
The right-hander pitched a complete-game three-hitter in the Trojans’ South regional final victory and added a three-run double that broke the game open in the fifth inning.
The Georgetown University-bound standout led the SMAA during the regular season with a .490 batting average.
Thornton Academy also has another top-notch pitcher in junior left-hander Joshua Kopetski, while seniors Brady Graffam and John Rohner and junior Nicholas Frink are other top batters for the Trojans.